Standing against the tide of years, sometimes we drown

The Economist has an obituary for Ian Smith, the leader of the fourteenth colony to declare independence from the United Kingdom. Smith’s rise a product of Britain’s fall: the bankruptcy of Her Majesty’s System Administration Force, necessitated by Britain’s disasterous entry into two disasterous World Wars. Pressured by the majority of the population below him, the Parliament above him, and anti-British Boers to his side, and his own mistakes, Smith’s Southern Rhodesia would fall. Because of his failure, Zimbabwe is now the nightmare it is today.

In a better world, that great war would not have been fought, the Core would have been able to afford a century of capital investment throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and men like Smith would have lived very different lives. But we don’t live in that better world.

At least, not yet.

So will CNN host a debate of Republican activists asking Democratic candidates questions

Anderson Cooper admits one questioner works for Clinton. While others merely publicly endorsed Democratic candidates. No wonder the debate was so fun to watch: it was a set-up.

I wonder when CNN hosts it’s next debate, with a Giuliani employee asking Clinton questions, while Huckabee, Thompson, Romney, and McCain supporters speak their minds.

(Of course the above sentence is rhetoric. CNN is a left-of-center political outlet, and has been for decades. Further, it would be very risky for Democratic candidates to walk into that sort of situation, which is why the Republican candidates only did so out of ignorance.)

Raising Smart Kids in Two Easy Steps

Slashdot links to a Scientific American article titled “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids: Hint: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life.” (Apparently, SciAm likes long titles.) There’s a lot of work done in the margins on positive psychology, but two of the biggest factors are pretty simple:

  1. Make sure your mate is smarter than you
  2. Make sure your kid’s friends are harder working than him

Of course, the main purpsoe of parenting isn’t the creation of a high-achieving next generation. It’s love. But high achievement doesn’t necessarily hurt.

Orientation and Decision: Two Systems for Thinking

Evans, J. St. B. T. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093629.

John Boyd’s OODA Loop is a dual processing model of cognition. The very best discussion of dual processing is Jonathan St. B. T. Evans’ “Dual processing accounts of reasoning, judgment and social cognition” (55-page pdf, Annual Review‘s description) to be published in January 2008, in the Annual Review of Psychology.

The article goes over a tremendous amount of literature in excellent style. Evans synthesizes many sources I’ve mentioned such as Lieberman’s “comparison between thinking and riding a bicycle,” and recent work noting the very strong correlation between working memory and IQ . But he puts everything in a larger context, showing how field after field is adopting dual processing systems, and thus coming ever closer to Boyd’s OODA model.

If you want to know how people think, Evans’ article is the place to start.

Impressions of the CNN Youtube Republican Debate

Giuliani — held his own throughout the debate, though on a few occasions were slower or more gentle in response than I expected.

Hucklebee — displaying the best of a preacher’s rhetoric, the only time this Governor looked bad is after he pandered to a mission to Mars, immediately for Tancredo pointed out that was financially absurd

Hunter — a good man outclassed by the complexities of the world.

McCain — generally a slightly less animated version of Giuliani, it’s hard to believe that Romney ran cirlces around him on the subjects of waterboarding and torture. That’s what happens when you let your emotions get the best of you, though.

Paul — an eloquent, intelligent, and forceful advocate for a restoration of the Constitutional order of 1929. Analogous to a knock-out blonde who loves both Rand and Buckley, yet refuses to use any technology that doesn’t rely on the power of steam. Completely impractical.

Romney — a smart man who acts dumb, his repeat of the Bush strategy probably would be smart for a country that hasn’t been exposed to is since 2000.

Thompson — remarkably elderly, his attack ad against Hucklebee reveals him for the third-tier candidate he is

If I could change just one thing per continent…

If I could change just one thing per continent…

The first four seem easy enough…

  • Europe: Ukraine admitted as a full member-state of the European Union (consolidation of Europe against Russia)
  • Asia: “Berlin Wall” moment as Korean DMZ becomes the conduit for a mass exodus (End of Kim Family Regime)
  • Africa: Zimbabwe as joint South African – Chinese Condominium (UN starts outsourcing its colonial administration)
  • North America: Cuba joins NAFTA/USA (End of Castro Family Regime)

But what should change in Australia? South America? Antarctica?

2007 Dozier Internet Law Google Rankings – Week 7

Dozier continues to throw cash at spam advertisingdoorway pages, theory pants, and the rest — in order to prevent googlers from finding out information about the company. Still, the fact that some of the spam pages are very, very low imply that the “newness” of their empty pages wears off quick. Ultimately, John Dozier may only be opening up his company and himself to liability, as these “attorney advertising” pages may eventually turn into sites for adult websites, or other illicit pursuits, if he doesn’t keep their registration up to date.

Name This Week Last Time Change
Dozier Internet Law, PC 1 1 holds
cybertriallawyer.com 2 2 holds
Dozier Internet Law 3 3 holds
Dozier Internet Law 4 4 holds
Dozier Internet Law 5 6 +1
Dozier Internet Law 6 7 +1
Dozier Internet Law Sucks 7 10 +3
Ars Techncia 8 8 holds
FindLaw 9 11 +2
New York Personal Injury Lawyer 10 15 +5
Dozier Internet Law 11 ( – ) new
tdaxp 12 5 -7
tdaxp.com 13 12 -1
Tailrank 14 13 -1
CLP 15 9 -6
Accidental Blogger 16 14 -2
newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com 17 ( – ) new
South Dakota Politics 18 17 -1
Dreaming 5GW 19 21 +2
Phatic Communion 20 20 holds
Blog of M’Gath 21 19 -2
dreaming5gw.com 22 22 holds
Yahoo! Delicious 23 23 holds
I Hate Linux 24 24 holds
ihatelinux.blogspot.com 25 25 holds

Dropped from rankings: Infomercial Blog (16), Plagiarism Today (18)

Others Receiving Votes: Jim River Report (received votes), Code Prairie (received votes), codeprairie.net (dropped from rankings), Topix (received votes), dEarth dX (received votes), Sphinn, WordPress (received votes), pubcit.typepad.com (received votes)

What we had to begin with + Practice + Memorization = Orientation

Chet Richards, founder of DNI and Belisarius, has an excellent post on decision speed cycle (in the context of the OODA loop):

1. The side which can keep its Orientation more closely matched to the unfolding situation will have an advantage. Another way to say this is that the side whose mental model of the universe is better will find opportunities to create and exploit gaps in the other side’s understanding.

2. You need an inventory of potentially effective actions that can flow smoothly from Orientation via the “implicit guidance and control” link. These actions are generally developed and made intuitive through years of hard training and exercises.

Basically, under this concept, when Orientation decides that it’s time to trigger an action, it just does it. Until then, we continue to observe and to tweak our orientations.

My current projects center around translating these concepts for educational psychologists. It’s a ton of work getting beyond the catch-22 (“why develop a theory if it’s not mentioned in the experimental literature?” “why run an experiment if its not implied by the theoretical literature”), but also a ton of fun.

Identity

The term “identity” is used to describe two separate concepts.

The first meaning of “identity” is metacognitive awareness of one’s own preference schedule. Educators often encourage “identity” (that is, better metacognitive knowledge). The purpose of this is emphasized by, and the ability to do this is questioned by, the people’s lack of introspection. Additionally, Catholic theology questions the desirability of “discovering” one’s own identity. Human nature may be sinful, but sin (which accounts for much of the natural preference schedule) does not “name” man. That is, wrong preference schedules cannot be used in describing one’s true preference schedules.

Another use of “identity” is as an in-group/out-group marker. Typically, this occurs when there are rival political coalitions that can affect an individual’s standing. For instance, the famous “erasing racism” study was able to override implicit racist identity by mixing the racial composition of competing groups of males. Similarly, the early “identity” of Catholic Bosnians as “Christian” (in the early part of the Bosnian War, when they were attempted to form ethnically homogenous regions of that state) quickly gave way to an “identity” as non-Serb, as both Bosnian Muslims and Bosian Croats (catholics) united to drive the Orthodox Christian Serbs from their territory.

General intelligence, working memory, and how American Public Schools hurt those who need them most

Colom, R., Rebollo, I., Palacios, A., Juan-Espinosa, M., & Kyllonen, P.C. (2004). Working memory is (almost) perfectly predicted by g. Intelligence, 32(3), 277-296. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2003.12.002.

Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, Half Sigma, and other bloggers of note are going around on the question of the heritability of intelligence in general, and the possibility of biological causes for the differences in general intelligence obsered in different groups. While occasionally people speak carelessly, it’s remarkable how far the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) of all human differences being the result of different environments has already collapsed. There are three traditional ways to attack the notion in biologically-driven racial differences in general intelligence

  1. There is no such thing as general intelligence
  2. There are no such things are races
  3. The environmental conditions in which the races tend to exist are unequal

The first two criticism are discredited. One can deny g or ancestry in the same way that one can deny darwinian selection or the old Earth: through determined dogmatism.

The third criticism remains, if only because of the horrifying inequalities in the world today. Of course, environmental inequalities can rapidly turn into biological inequalities. One only needs to look at the Inbred Gap to know that. Yet it’s also true that one can be trained to perform better on any subset of tests that are used to measure general intelligence. Thus the Flynn Effect: this or that measure will suddenly deviate from the rest, causing illusionary growth or shrinkage in differences.

One measure that very closely approximates g (“(almost) perfectly predicts,” in the word of the paper’s excited authors) is working memory.

This article analyzes if working memory (WM) is especially important to understand g. WM comprises the functions of focusing attention, conscious rehearsal, and transformation and mental manipulation of information, while g reflects the component variance that is common to all tests of ability. The centrality of WM in individual differences in information processing leads to some cognitive theorists to equate it with g. There are several studies relating WM with psychometric abilities like reasoning, fluid intelligence, spatial visualization, spatial relations, or perceptual speed, but there are very few studies relating WM with g, defined by several diverse tests. In three studies, we assessed crystallised intelligence (Gc), spatial ability (Gv), fluid intelligence (Gf), and psychometric speed (Gs) using various tests from the psychometric literature. Moreover, we assessed WM and processing speed (PS). WM tasks involve storage requirements, plus concurrent processing. PS tasks measure the speed by which the participants take a quick decision about the identity of some stimuli; 594 participants were tested. Confirmatory factor analyses yielded consistently high estimates of the loading of g over WM (.96 on average). WM is the latent factor best predicted by g. It is proposed that this is so because the later has much in common with the main characteristic of the former.

Working memory allows you to make sense of information, so that you can remember it. It is most important in that it makes it easier to memorize things. This also explains why school appears to lower general intelligence of high-performing populations, such as Chinese: if you are in an environment where high academic achievement is socially punished, excess working memory capacity naturally atrophies. Similarly, this may explain why the heritability of g increases in life: once out of the socialized public schools, an individuals’ environment is more under his control, and an individual that enjoys tasks that involve the comprehension of complex materials will strengthen those neural connections more.

If g really is working memory, the educational implications are huge. The soft bigotry of low expectations is especially brutal to those apparently with low working memory capacity. Because working memory does not matter once a task is memorized. Memorization is the way-out of the trap of low working memory. And what’s needed for memorization is clear: practice, academic discipline, and practice. Yet who believes that fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education most majority-black schools are models of academic seriousness and discipline?

Even more tragic — if the link between general intelligence and working memory is strong — working memory is trivially easy to test. There’s no need for race-conscious policies at all to battle what may be the worst racial inequality through education. We could close much of the achievement gap, regardless of average biological differences between races.

Instead, we have America’s public schools.